I’m a silly person. Everyone who knows me well learns that pretty quickly, and I find humor in just about any situation that doesn’t involve sickness or death. I can also readily find a scripture that matches up with whatever the drama may be; sometimes that’s done in a serious vein, sometimes to flesh out the irony. When I began my hunt for an agent the one that immediately came to mind was Proverbs 31:10. You know it ladies, The Virtuous Woman. How did I equate Proverbs 31 to finding an agent? Like a good woman, agents seem to have great value if you have one, but as the word in Proverbs says, “Who can find one?” And who can find one who’ll work with a newbie author? Dare I throw in an African-American newbie in a niche genre? (I just guffawed). I could do a disscertation on the agent thing using chapter 31 of Proverbs, maybe another day. Maybe when I've been published longer and know more.
Agents are an enigma to me. In the whole big US of A where 300K plus books are published every year by nearly as many authors, there’s a very small list of people who are considered reputable agents. If that’s not a job that needs to be on the Bureau of Labor Statistics list of “Most Needed” I don’t know what is. Suffice to say the agents’ low supply and high demand lead to this little thing that bugs people like me crazy: the ability to be picky.
I began my search for an agent on January 1st after I left my parents house. I had done some preliminary reading about what to look for, so I created a short list of about ten agents that I was interested in. I had a few “yeah right” choices in the mix, but it was largely comprised of agents who specialized in Christian or Inspirational fiction that had at least one African-American client. (I hate being alone at a party.) I email queried them all and two responded. Both said thanks, but no thanks, and good luck looking. I quickly made a list of five more. Emailed them. None responded. Five more. Not one answer. I waited and waited. Checked my email every fifteen minutes for three weeks and no one answered me. No one wanted to represent me.
From the agents perspective I kinda understand the rejection. Newbie author – they're thinking what are you going to sell – 5,000 copies if you hustle a little. That’s a buck a book if you average gross and net sales royalties. They get 15% commission. Earnings of $750 a year on the high end for them. Not a mint, but come on my book was sold. They didn't even have to shop it. $750 to make a few phone calls, negotiate a “standard” contract and send a few emails a year asking me how I’m doing and how’s the 2nd book coming. We’re talking maybe 5 hours of work all year; $150 an hour isn't bad money, but then again my day job isn’t on the BLS list of jobs most needed, so what do I know about money.
Despite what I considered good agent bait (easy money), I couldn’t bag one to save my life. I’ll always think highly of the few that took the time to respond in the “negative” to my query. If I’m ever in the market for a new agent, I’d come begging at their inbox again. So now you’re wondering – did I ever get an agent? And if yes, how? More crazy faith? Not quite. I asked an author friend to refer me to hers.
Lesson #10 – You’ve already learned this one, but I can't say it enough: network and make friends. People will help you.
My best-est author friend in the world, Sherri Lewis, gave me a referral to Crichton & Associates. Ms. Crichton, who I now call by her first name, telephoned me and conducted a quick 1-2-3 interview. She asked my about my goals, my future projects, my plans for marketing – yada, yada, yada. She didn’t hear anything crazy or unrealistic, so she offered to represent me. I asked her a few questions, but at this point I was pretty desperate. Sherri and some of the other authors I knew whom she represented had good things to say. Then there was the added benefit of her being an attorney who specializes in contracts. I learned from attending writers' conferences that the best agents are lawyers because they understand the legalese. By the beginning of February, I want to say February 13, 2007, I had an agent. There was much ((((((clapping))))))) and wiping of my brow.
So what's next? "Ummm, can somebody tell me when my book is coming out?"
See you on Tuesday.
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